PES ministers for gender equality reaffirm women’s rights for a feminist and equal Europe
PES ministers for gender equality reaffirm women’s rights for a feminist and equal Europe

PES media room reports:

EU leaders must show a clear commitment to women’s rights and gender equality by creating a forum for intergovernmental exchange at the EU-level, progressive gender equality ministers agreed today.

The meeting focused on the importance of creating a truly gender mainstreamed EU recovery strategy, with the necessary funding and institutional structures to stop the backlash against gender equality and ease the burden on women in the wake of COVID-19.

PES Ministers from Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Malta and Luxembourg declared in the adopted text:

“This is the moment to put gender equality and women’s rights at the heart of the EU’s recovery strategy and to deliver bold and ambitious policies. The work of the European institutions is crucial in this process. While the European Parliament and the European Commission have enshrined gender equality as a key portfolio and priority, the EU still does not have a formal Council configuration for gender equality. We, the PES Ministers for gender equality and women’s rights, have the political will. We are asking the EU leaders to take their responsibility.”

The ministers, state secretaries, Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli and other representatives of the progressive family convened at the invitation of PES Women President Zita Gurmai to mark the start of the German Council Presidency on 1 July.

In addition to the declaration, the participants discussed concrete initiatives to deliver on the EU Gender Equality Strategy and promote a feminist economy for Europe, including the upcoming Commission proposal for a pay transparency directive and the ‘Women on Boards’ directive.

PES Women President Zita Gurmai said:

“To combat threats to the rights of women and girls and to advance gender equality, we need strong leadership from national governments. The creation of a Council configuration for gender equality would show that the EU is taking gender equality seriously and is willing to put women’s rights at the heart of its recovery strategy. The COVID-19 crisis has shown the importance of prioritising women’s issues and mainstreaming gender equality in all EU policies, and a Council configuration is crucial for this. 

“The next few months will be vital for gender equality in Europe. I am looking forward to seeing a strong commitment to advancing gender equality during the German Council Presidency and ambitious initiatives spearheaded by Commissioner Dalli. Moreover, PES Women calls on all EU leaders to ensure a gender mainstreamed EU budget and recovery fund as soon as possible.”

At last month’s PES Presidency meeting, PES Women Vice-President Marja Bijl briefed the Presidency members on PES Women’s call for the creation of a formal Council configuration for gender equality.

The meeting was attended by:

  • Mariana Vieira da Silva, Minister of State for the Presidency (Portugal)
  • Rosianne Cutajar, Junior Minister for Equality and Reforms (Malta)
  • Juliane Seifert, State Secretary Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Germany)
  • Helena Dalli, European Commissioner for Equality (Malta)
  • Heléne Fritzon MEP, S&D Group Vice-President, responsible for Equality (Sweden)
  • Zita Gurmai, PES Women President (Hungary)
  • Marja Bijl, PES Women Vice-President (Netherlands)
Centre-right wins in Croatian parliamentary elections
Centre-right wins in Croatian parliamentary elections

On Sunday 5 July, ALDE reports on its newsletter, Croatians headed to polls in the country’s snap parliamentary elections, with five ALDE member parties running: Croatian’s People Party (HNS), Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS), Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS), Civic-Liberal Alliance (GLAS) and Pametno (P).

The governing centre-right party Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) ran together with ALDE member HSLS, reaching a total of 66 seats out of 151 seats. One of these seats will belong to HSLS. While this is the biggest win for HDZ since 1990s, the party still needs a coalition partner to reach majority.

The biggest opposition force, the Restart Coalition led by the Social Democrats (SDP) got a total of 41 seats. Supporting this coalition, three of these seats will go to ALDE member IDS and one to GLAS. The new populist right-wing party led by Miroslav Škoro came third, totalling up to 16 seats.

ALDE members Pametno and HNS will also hold one seat each. This means that liberals will be represented in the new parliament by all ALDE member parties.

The voter turnout of 46.90% is the lowest turnout ever in the Croatian parliamentary history. Possible reason to this include the COVID-19 outbreak as well as the timing of the elections – for the first time, the country held elections at the beginning of summer.

UN EU Delegation shares opinion of expert Danius Puras at 44th Session of the HRC
UN EU Delegation shares opinion of expert Danius Puras at 44th Session of the HRC

HRC 44 – Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

Madam President,

The European Union would like to thank the Special Rapporteur for his report on “the elements that are needed to set a rights-based global agenda for advancing the right to mental health”. This being your last dialogue with the Council in your current capacity, the EU would like to thank you for your very valuable contributions to the promotion and protection of the right to health and, in particular, for the much needed attention you dedicated to the right to mental health.

The EU agrees that it is essential to adopt and implement a human rights-based approach to mental health. As you rightly point out, there is a need to move towards more humane, compassionate and indeed rights-based support for those experiencing serious psychosocial distress.

At the centre of such an approach are the dignity, autonomy, will and preferences of those persons accessing and using mental health services, as well as core values such as social inclusion, participation, equality and non-discrimination.

In your report you mention the impact on mental health of global challenges such as climate change, the use of digital surveillance technologies and social credit systems, and health crises such as the one related to COVID-19 which the world is currently experiencing.

The EU shares your opinion that solidarity, collective activism and shared commitments help to set up adequate responses to these challenges and that states should take all measures to ensure that the civic space needed for these collective voices to be heard is protected.

Mr. Special Rapporteur,

Could you further elaborate on how best to integrate public health evidence, lived experience and rights-based research to guide decision-making on global and national public policy strategies?

Thank you.

Derecho y Religion launches its latest scientific magazine
Derecho y Religion launches its latest scientific magazine

40th anniversary of the Organic Law on Religious Freedom

Delta Publicaciones, a well-known publishing house, has just launched in Spanish their latest “Law and Religion” magazine, the number XV, commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Spanish Religious Freedom Law.

The magazine, which contains articles by the top full professors of Religious Freedom has been coordinated by Prof. Miguel Rodríguez Blanco and Prof. Marcos González Sánchez, both awardees of the Spanish granted “Religious Freedom Awards” on 2018 and 2019 respectively. The Organic Law 7/1980 of July 5, 1980 on Religious Freedom has reached forty years of validity. This law has contributed to the recognition of the right to religious freedom by all citizens and the absence of serious conflicts or confrontations in this area.

The LOLR was a key element in the transition and consolidation of a democratic state in Spain. It introduced into our legal system a series of novelties that constitute the content in this field of the Constitution in force today: it guarantees and develops equally the rights of all denominations, within the framework of the recognition of the religious freedom of all citizens, of the non-denominational nature of the State, and of the cooperation of the public authorities with religious denominations. 40 years after the entry into force of the LOLR, it is appropriate to analyze its positive and negative aspects.

The analysis and defense of the LOLR is the best tribute we can make in this 40th anniversary of its approval. We thank the professors of the Ecclesiastical Law of the State who with their better availability and dedication have wanted to collaborate to its realization. The result is a very complete volume, which refers to almost all the questions raised by the articles of the LOLR.

Introduction by Prof. Rodríguez Blanco & Prof. González Sánchez

It was clear to the democratic people of Spain 40 years ago that they wanted to live together in peace and that is why the current Spanish Constitution of 1978 sealed “religious peace”. The new constitutional framework demanded a rapid change in the regulation of religious freedom established by the Franco regime, hence the change from a law that established a system of mere religious tolerance – Law 44/1967 of 28 June on Religious Freedom – to the current Organic Law 7/1980 of 5 July on Religious Freedom [LOLR], which has helped to make the religious transition in Spain. It is one of the first laws to be enacted in development of a fundamental right and was approved with great consensus. It consists of eight articles, two transitional provisions, one derogatory and one final. It is a very valid and effective text for the purposes of achieving the proposed goal, a reference for other European and American laws, and which continues to be as useful as it was four decades ago.

The LOLR provides a good service to coexistence, in accordance with the principle of the secularity of the State, by helping to guarantee the effective exercise of the right to religious freedom. This fundamental right is equally held by all individuals and all religious denominations. In general terms, the content of the Law can be summarized as follows: guarantees religious freedom and points out the reporting principles on the regulation of the religious social factor; sets the content of religious freedom and establishes the limits to its exercise and the aspects that fall outside its scope of protection; regulates the judicial protection of recognized rights; creates the Register of Religious Entities – a register that shows that religious entities are a phenomenon distinct from associations and constitutes their main meeting point; recognizes full autonomy for denominations and the capacity for them to establish their own rules of organization, internal rules and staff rules; the possibility for denominations to have access to the signing of cooperation agreements with the State – which create a special legal framework, a specific framework of rights adapted to their own characteristics – and creates the Advisory Commission on Religious Freedom.

The defence and guarantee of religious diversity only goes through the defence and guarantee of religious freedom. Diversity helps progress and societies without diversity are further behind. The LOLR offers solutions to such pressing problems as the very ordering of society, strengthens and develops the religious beliefs of individuals and denominations and, in short, prevents intransigent policies that have characterized authoritarian and anti-democratic regimes throughout history and that today are far from the scope of our freedoms. Freedom requires laws and the LOLR fulfils its objective.

The monographic XV of the Law and Religion Magazine is dedicated to the LOLR when turning 40 years of validity. When a norm lasts so long it is a sign that it is good and has overcome oblivion. In any case, given the time that has passed we consider that it is the opportune moment to make an evaluation of its application and to analyze those questions that possibly require a development, modification or incorporation to the text of the Law. For years there has been talk of its possible reform and it is clear that, like any legal text, it can be modified. However, if the change is not to make it better, it is preferable that it remains as it is. Perhaps, as most representatives of religious denominations claim, what should be done is to comply with its content and apply it fully. In any case, any reform or replacement of the LOLR should be very consensual as it is a norm that develops a particularly sensitive fundamental right in every society.

The analysis and defense of the LOLR is the best tribute we can make in this fortieth anniversary of its approval. We are grateful to the professors of Ecclesiastical Law of the State that with their better availability and dedication have wanted to collaborate to its realization. The result is a very complete volume, which refers to almost all the questions raised by the articles of the LOLR. Likewise, we would like to point out that the Department of Private Law of the University of the Balearic Islands has collaborated in this publication and has been financed by the Research Project “40th Anniversary of the Organic Law of Religious Freedom. Critical analysis” (L3-2019) of the Foundation Pluralism and Coexistence of the Ministry of the Presidency, Relations with the Courts and Democratic Memory. Translated with (free version)

PES tourism ministers’ declaration: a way forward to relaunch European tourism
PES tourism ministers’ declaration: a way forward to relaunch European tourism

Tourism ministers from Spain, Italy, Malta and Portugal today signed a joint declaration calling for a coordinated relaunch of European tourism which boosts the industry and guarantees the health and safety of tourists and local populations.

The ministers resolved to safeguard the future of European tourism, calling for the new recovery instrument – Next Generation EU – to support the sector and the communities and regions affected by this crisis.

After adopting the declaration, Maria Reyes Maroto Illera, Spain’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism and Chair of the PES Tourism Ministerial Network, said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to have serious social-economic consequences for the tourism sector. It is time to ensure that this industry, its businesses and its workers receive the support needed for the safe and sustainable recovery of European tourism. This is particularly true for the countries, islands and other peripheral areas, whose economic survival often depends on tourism revenues.

“With the opening of borders and the start of the summer holidays period, we must ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to safely travel and enjoy their well-deserved summer break. In this endeavour, we need a coordinated approach with common European rules guaranteeing the safety of both workers and tourists. This how we will succeed in regaining public trust in the tourism sector to deliver quality and safe services.”

The declaration backs a non-discriminatory approach to reopening borders based on a common European process, rather than bilateral agreements. This is now especially pertinent considering the opening of borders for third-country nationals.

For citizens, the declaration backs harmonised safety rules at European level to regain public trust in quality and safe tourism. It calls for strong consumer protection and the move towards a more uniform scheme across Europe. A large communication and promotion campaign aimed at increasing the visibility of Europe as a tourist destination is also needed.

For tourism workers, the ministers strongly back the Commission’s Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE), spearheaded by Commissioners Paolo Gentiloni and Nicolas Schmit, and call for it to be implemented as soon as possible. Training must be offered to workers who either lost their job or cannot find seasonal work because of the crisis.

Representatives from the PES signed the declaration after meeting by videoconference earlier this month to discuss tourism and the COVID-19 crisis.

Tourism plays a central role in European societies. It is a driver for citizens’ wellbeing, contributing to social cohesion, employment and economic growth. Tourism accounts for more than 10% of the EU’s GDP and provides 12% of its jobs. It is one of Europe’s strongest ambassadors, promoting European culture and identity at home and abroad.

The declaration has been signed by:

  • Maria Reyes Maroto Illera, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Spain and Chair of the PES Tourism Ministerial Network
  • Dario Franceschini, Minister for Cultural Assets and Activities and Tourism, Italy
  • Julia Farrugia Portelli, Minister for Tourism & Consumer Protection, Malta
  • Rita Marques, Secretary of State for Tourism, Portugal
‘Transfats’ from processed foods may increase ovarian cancer risk
‘Transfats’ from processed foods may increase ovarian cancer risk

2 July 2020 Health

A likely link between processed and fried foods containing so-called “transfats” and ovarian cancer has been identified by UN scientists, they said on Thursday on a press release, of which The Social News in EU is informing.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued the announcement at the end of a study of nearly 1,500 patients suffering from the disease, which is the eighth most common cause of cancer death in women.

Previous, smaller studies have suggested a link between these industrially manufactured fatty foods and ovarian cancer, but the evidence has been “inconclusive” until now, said IARC’s Dr Inge Huybrechts.

“This is the first Europe-wide prospective study showing a relationship between intake of industrial trans fatty acids and development of ovarian cancer,” added the scientist from IARC, which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Obesity and inflammation

Although there is limited research into the effect of transfatty acids on cancer development, previous studies have suggested that industrial trans fatty acids affect obesity and inflammation.

These are “known risk factors” for ovarian cancer according to IARC scientist and study co-author Dr Véronique Chajès.

This could explain, “at least partly, the positive association between these fatty acids and ovarian cancer”, she added.

There were nearly 300,000 new cases of ovarian cancer in 2018 and more than 184,000 deaths worldwide.

It is eighth most common cancer type and the eighth most common cause of cancer death in women.

Prevention strategies

Because the incidence of ovarian cancer is rising worldwide, prevention strategies are urgently needed; however, few preventable factors have been identified.

“These new findings are in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to eliminate industrial trans fatty acids from foods”, said Dr Marc Gunter, head of the Section of Nutrition and Metabolism at IARC.

“This study provides new evidence that reduction in the consumption of industrially processed foods, including fast food, could help reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and many other chronic diseases, including other cancer types, that are related to higher consumption of industrial trans fatty acids.”

Design unveiled for first Baha’i Temple in the DRC | BWNS
Design unveiled for first Baha’i Temple in the DRC | BWNS

Design for the Baha’i House of Worship in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been revealed by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the country.

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo — After much anticipation, the design for the national Baha’i House of Worship to be built in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was unveiled today through an online announcement by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the country.

“This has been a long-awaited moment for the Baha’is of the DRC,” says Lavoisier Mutombo Tshiongo, Secretary of the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly. “With firm feet, we are taking a new step toward raising our first House of Worship, here in the heart of the African continent, giving a new impulse to all our efforts to serve our society.”

7 images
The site of the House of Worship, on the outskirts of Kinshasa, overlooks the Congo River from the edge of a fertile valley.

The design, created by Wolff Architects in Cape Town, South Africa, is inspired by traditional artworks, structures and natural features of the DRC, as well as by the Baha’i sacred teachings, particularly by the spiritual concept that God’s bounty is unceasingly flowing over all people.

The site of the House of Worship, on the outskirts of Kinshasa, overlooks the Congo River from the edge of a fertile valley. This river, whose tributaries gather rain from every part of the country into one great stream, provides a powerful image of the coming together of all people that is reflected in the design of the temple. The patterns that will adorn the outside of the dome of the central edifice will express this idea in a style reminiscent of the artwork of various Congolese peoples.

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An interior view of the design for the national Baha’i House of Worship to be built in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Commenting on the design, the architects state: “We were inspired by an image of 19th Century Congolese architecture which showed the most beautiful structures that appear to have finely woven bamboo facades with a parabolic roof made of palm leaves. These houses were located amongst giant baobab trees. … The undulating roof of the temple makes reference to this history.”

7 images
View of the Congo River from Kinshasa. This river, whose tributaries gather rain from every part of the country into one great stream, provides a powerful image of the coming together of all people that is reflected in the design of the temple. The patterns that will adorn the outside of the dome of the central edifice will express this idea in a style reminiscent of the artwork of various Congolese peoples. (Credit: Susan Sheper)

The House of Worship will embody the vibrant devotional spirit that has been fostered over the decades by the Baha’is of the DRC. Over 200,000 people across the country, of all ages and faiths, regularly participate in Baha’i devotional gatherings in their neighborhoods and villages. Even with current lockdown measures, the intensity of this devotional life has only increased while maintaining safety measures put in place by the government.

7 images
Photographs taken before the current health crisis. The national House of Worship of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will embody the vibrant devotional spirit that has been fostered over the decades by the Baha’is of the country. Over 200,000 people across the country, of all ages and faiths, regularly participate in Baha’i devotional gatherings in their neighborhoods and villages.

Reflecting on these experiences, Mr. Mutombo says, “People from all religious communities are coming to Baha’i devotional meetings, reflecting together on the needs of our society and growing in camaraderie.

“The House of Worship will be built with nine doors facing every direction and will be open to all people, allowing for the principle of unity in diversity to become a daily reality. At this moment when the world is passing through one of the worst crises in recent times, the emergence of this temple signifies the pivotal role that prayer plays in inspiring hope and moving all to action.”

Rural areas must play a more prominent role in the Covid-19 recovery and reconstruction plan
Rural areas must play a more prominent role in the Covid-19 recovery and reconstruction plan

RenewEurope organizes online event with top officials of the EU institutions

Rural areas must play a more prominent role in the Covid-19 recovery and reconstruction plan. With the right vision and appropriate policies in place, rural communities have the potential to drive the transition to a greener and more resilient Europe, to the benefit of both urban and rural dwellers.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank, Michel Barnier, Head of the European Commission Task Force on future relations with the United Kingdom and former European Commissioner for Regional Development and Iratxe García Pérez, President of the S&D Group in the European Parliament will share with you their vision for harnessing the potential of rural areas.

The future is not just urban. Learning from the experiences of the Common Strategic Framework, engaging directly with stakeholders and anticipating the post-Brexit and new enlargement challenges, we must give a fresh new impetus to our vision for rural areas.

At a moment when the European Union is ready to take decisive steps to draw up its strategy for the 2021-2027 period, this seminar aims to set out a “one Europe” concept, closing the divide between rural and urban areas, East, West, North and South and establishing a roadmap for successful, sustainable and prosperous rural areas across our Continent.

*** Event interpretation will be offered in EN RO FR DE ES ****

Event Agenda

?14.30 – 15.00 – Opening session
▪️ Welcoming words by Dacian Cioloș, President of Renew Europe
▪️ Keynote address by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
▪️ Opening remarks by Werner Hoyer, President of the EIB

?15.00 – 15.30 – Placing rural areas at the top of EU recovery’s agenda
Chaired by Dacian Cioloș, with:
▪️ Michel Barnier, Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, former European Commissioner for regional policy and former French Minister
▪️ Iratxe Garcia Perez, President of the S&D group in the European Parliament
▪️ Andrew McDowell, Vice-President of the EIB

?15.30 – 16.00 – Mobilising rural communities
Chaired by Hannes Lorenzen, Rural Networker, with:
▪️ Ilaria Signoriello, Farmer, National Forum for Social Agriculture, Italy
▪️ Katrina Idu, Latvian Rural Forum, European Rural Youth Parliament, Latvia
▪️ Petar Gjorgievski Balkan Rural Development Network, North Macedonia
▪️ Emilija Stojmenova-Duh University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
▪️ Francesca Whitlock, Farmer, European network for community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability, (ECOLISE), Spain

?16.00 – 16.30 – Debate and questions from the floor

?16.30 – 17.00 – Closing session and conclusions by
▪️ Norbert Lins, Chair of the EP Agriculture Committee
▪️ Pascal Canfin Chair of the EP Environment Committee

▪️ Final remarks by Dacian Cioloș, President of Renew Europe ▪️

Piazza Grande Religion Journalism Award. Winners announced
Piazza Grande Religion Journalism Award. Winners announced

The International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ) and Fscire are pleased to announce that Italian journalist Federica Tourn was awarded the first edition of the Piazza Grande Religion Journalism Award for her coverage about religious discrimination in Italian prisons Dio dietro le sbarre / God behind bars.

The international jury also awarded three special mentions to journalists Gerald Drißner (Austria) for Kolossale Ambitionen einer kleinen Stadt / The colossal ambitions of a little town; László Szőcs (Hungary) for Megtalált jegygyűrű / A wedding ring recovered; and Chiara Zappa (Italy), for Papa Francesco ad Abu Dhabi: La Chiesa in terra araba / Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi: The Church on Arab soil.

The Piazza Grande Religion Journalism Award was launched by the IARJ and Fscire in Bologna in March 2019 during the annual conference of the European Academy of Religion (EuARe) to honour the work of journalists covering faith and religion in Europe, including Iceland and Russia, and the countries surrounding the Mediterranean basin. The award program is run by the IARJ and funded by Fscire.

In its first edition, it received 71 entries. The entries came from journalists based in countries including Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Italy, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. The IARJ and the FSCIRE thank all of the participants in the contest for entering their stories to the first edition of the Piazza Grande Religion Journalism Award.

EU FRA: Many older people in care homes fell victim to COVID-19
EU FRA: Many older people in care homes fell victim to COVID-19

Many older people in care homes fell victim to COVID-19. Many also faced months of isolation and restrictions often harsher than those enforced for other parts of the population. The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) looks at how the pandemic affected the rights of older people. It highlights the need for a rights-based approach as governments shape their exit strategies.

“Everyone has the same rights, no matter how old they are,” stressed FRA director, Michael O’Flaherty. “As we transition to the ‘new normal’, governments must pay special attention to the needs of older people and ensure they are treated equally. Only then, will older people be able to regain their lives in dignity and respect.”

“As we transition to the ‘new normal’, governments must pay special attention to the needs of older people and ensure they are treated equally. Only then, will older people be able to regain their lives in dignity and respect.”

Michael O’Flaherty

FRA’s third Coronavirus pandemic in the EU: fundamental rights implications looks at the measures EU Member States took to address the pandemic between 1 May – 31 May 2020. This edition focuses on the impact on older people.While governments aim to protect the most vulnerable in our societies, some COVID-19 measures raise concerns about the rights of older people:

Right to life – the death rate among older people was much higher than among other age groups – particularly in institutional settings, which serves to underline the vulnerability and need for close monitoring of older people in such settings.

Access to healthcare – as national healthcare systems came under pressure, doctors were forced to decide who to treat. In some EU countries, authorities or healthcare bodies issued guidance suggesting a patient’s age as a criterion for prioritising treatment.

Lack of testing – testing of care home residents and staff was lacking. By the end of May, testing was planned or underway only in a third of EU countries.

Stricter restrictions – many EU countries had stricter rules for older people than for the general population. At the same time, all countries introduced specific measures to help older people access services or use public transport.

Isolation – lack of social contacts took a toll on the physical and mental well-being of older people. Many local initiatives supported people in care homes.

Healthcare delays – many countries suspended non-urgent treatments, which affected many older people who have existing health conditions requiring treatment. EU countries need better data to understand how the pandemic affected older people to help them make evidence-based decisions for the future.

As our societies reopen, governments should take care of the needs of older people as the passage to the ‘new normal’ will likely be slower and more difficult for them.

The bulletin also looks at other fundamental rights implications of government measures to fight the pandemic:states of emergency;measures to contain the virus and mitigate its impact on social life, education, work, the justice system and travel to and within the EU;

the impact of the virus on other vulnerable groups, such as people with disabilities, detainees, homeless people and victims of domestic violence.FRA will continue to monitor the situation and publish regular updates, drawing on evidence collected across all EU countries

CEPS and the EU FRA organize webinar on Racism during COVID19
CEPS and the EU FRA organize webinar on Racism during COVID19

The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on all aspects of European societies. The pandemic has not affected all population groups equally, as FRA’s regular bulletins on the fundamental rights implications of COVID-19 show. In particular, responses to COVID-19 have illustrated and exacerbated existing patterns of discrimination, prejudice and intolerance.

The rapid spread of massive protests and mobilisations internationally in response to the killing of George Perry Floyd during a police stop have underlined the urgent need to timely address institutionalised manifestations of racism and discrimination, also in the EU.

This Webinar, co-organised between CEPS and the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), will highlight and critically explore some of these patterns, and discuss the significance of responses to the pandemic for fundamental rights and what this implies for EU and national policy makers, with particular attention to the necessity to properly implement fundamental rights protections in the EU.

KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality, European Commission
MODERATOR: Sergio Carrera, Senior Research Fellow and Head of Justice and Home Affairs Unit, CEPS
DISCUSSANTS: Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) Dr. Pierrette Herzberger-Fofana, MEP, European Parliament Karen Taylor, Chair of Board of the European Network against Racism and Xenophobia, (ENAR) Dora Kostakopoulou, Member of the Scientific Committee FRA and Professor of European Law at the University of Warwick
EVENT DETAILS: Date: 03.07.2020, Friday Time: 13:00 – 14:30 (Brussels time, CET) The event will be hosted via Zoom. Open to all public. Once registered, the zoom link + password will be shared with you nearer to the event. Event page: HERE
EU Priorities for the 44th session of the Human Rights Council from an EU perspective
EU Priorities for the 44th session of the Human Rights Council from an EU perspective

From 30 June to 17 July 2019, the EU will participate actively in the 44th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC44) taking place in Geneva, underlining that the protection and promotion of human rights is and will remain at the core of the EU’s external action. “We have to put the protection of Human Rights front and centre in the fight against and recovery from Covid-19,” emphasises Ambassador Walter Stevens, Head of the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva. “The fight against the pandemic should not be used as a pretext to limit democratic and civic space, the respect of the rule of law and of international commitments, nor to curtail freedoms or access to information. We will therefore continue to be a strong voice for the respect of human rights.”

At HRC44, the EU will take the lead on a resolution on Belarus, following up on last year’s resolution and drawing attention to the deterioration of the human rights situation in the run-up to the Presidential elections of 9 August. The Belarusian authorities have significantly increased their repressions of the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country, while formal restrictions remain in place. Belarus also continues to apply the death penalty, to which the European Union reiterated its unequivocal opposition. The EU-led resolution on the situation of human rights in Belarus aims to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for one more year.

“In the context of a pandemic where we have seen an increased spread of mis- and disinformation, and measures that have limited the fundamental right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and access to information, it could not be more timely to support the resolution on Freedom of Expression at HRC44,” says EU Ambassador Stevens. We have to ensure that human rights defenders, journalists, media workers and civil society organisations can fully enjoy this right in a safe environment. The EU is therefore working closely with the pen-holders of the resolution and EU Member States to secure a substantial resolution on the Freedom of Expression with a focus on access to information, online and offline.

The EU remains committed to make genuine progress on the Business and Human Rights agenda inside and outside the EU in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We will therefore support and engage constructively in the upcoming resolutions related to Business and Human Rights, also to demonstrate our continued commitment to the implementation of the Guiding Principles.

Women’s rights and gender equality will feature very high on this Council session’s agenda. “The EU will use each and every occasion to reaffirm the full validity of our commitments to gender equality and will continue to promote the integration of a gender perspective throughout the work of the Human Rights Council,” underlines EU Ambassador Stevens. We will strongly engage in negotiations on gender-focused initiatives, including the resolutions on the elimination of discrimination against women and girls, elimination of female genital mutilation, as well as trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

During HRC44, we will continue to pay close attention to the human rights situation in Syria. To underscore our political and financial support to Syrians, the EU is virtually hosting the fourth Brussels Conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region on the first day of HRC44, co-chaired with the UN. We will also continue to raise the human rights situation in China, including in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

The human rights situation in Eritrea also remains high on the Council’s agenda.To date, there is no evidence that Eritrea has made tangible progress on its human rights obligations. The EU strongly encourages progress on the Universal Periodic Review recommendations and cooperation with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Eritrea. Hence, the EU will continue to reiterate its concerns as regards the human rights situation in the country.

UN Human Rights Council adopts new resolution on Freedom of Religion
UN Human Rights Council adopts new resolution on Freedom of Religion

The resolution A/HRC/43/L.18 on Freedom of Religion or Belief has been Adopted at the 43th session of the Human Right Council the 19 June 2020

Action on Resolution on Freedom of Religion or Belief

In a resolution (A/HRC/43/L.18) on freedom of religion or belief, adopted without a vote, the Council expresses deep concern at emerging obstacles to the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief, and at instances of religious intolerance, discrimination, and violence, inter alia, the increasing number of acts of violence directed against individuals, including persons belonging to religious minorities in various parts of the world, and the rise of religious extremism in various parts of the world that affects the rights of individuals, including persons belonging to religious minorities. The Council condemns all forms of violence, intolerance, and discrimination based on or in the name of religion or belief…; strongly encourages government representatives and leaders in all sectors of society and respective communities to speak out against acts of intolerance and violence based on religion or belief; urges States to step up their efforts to promote and protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief; and calls upon States to make use of the potential of education for the eradication of prejudices against and stereotypes of individuals on the basis of their religion or belief.

43/… Freedom of religion or belief

The Human Rights Council,

Recalling General Assembly resolution 36/55 of 25 November 1981, in which the  Assembly proclaimed the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief,

Recalling also article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,  article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights provisions,

Recalling further Human Rights Council resolution 40/10 of 21 March 2019, and  other resolutions adopted by the Council, the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights on the freedom of religion or belief or the elimination of all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief,

Recalling Human Rights Council resolutions 5/1 and 5/2 of 18 June 2007,  Noting with appreciation the conclusions and recommendations of the expert workshops organized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and contained in the Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial and religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence,
adopted in Rabat on 5 October 2012, reaffirming that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated.

The ECR announces its latest online debate “Transatlantic Trade”
The ECR announces its latest online debate “Transatlantic Trade”

The European Conservatives and Reformists Party will be holding Tuesday 30th June its latest online panel – Europe Debates: Transatlantic Trade.

According to the statement of the ECR “Transatlantic trade is currently worth hundreds of billions of Euro’s a year – with free trade agreements already negotiated between Canada and the European Union – the benefits of enhancing trade relations across the Atlantic are clear. The future of trade is increasingly with Latin America and the United States”.

ECR Party in partnership with Americans for Tax Reform, says the press release, will explore how expanding trade relations across the Atlantic will help with the post coronavirus recovery and ensure long term economic growth into the future.

The speakers invited to take the floor (or the mic) are: Eduardo Bolsonaro MP from Brazil, Grover Norquist – President of Americans for Tax Reform, Daniel Hannan – President of Initiative for Free Trade, Hermann Tertsch MEP from Spain, Matthias Karlsson MP from Sweden and Philip Thompson, International Trade Barrier Index.

EPP supports Paschal Donohoe for Eurogroup President
EPP supports Paschal Donohoe for Eurogroup President

EPP expresses its “full support for Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Finance of Ireland in his campaign to become the next Eurogroup President.   As one of the Eurogroup’s longest-serving members, and as an elected politician since 2007 from EPP member party Fine Gael, Minister Donohoe has the necessary experience to lead the Eurogroup at this time. He has committed to acting as a bridge builder between all Member States; North and South, East and West, small and large”.

According to the EPP “He also has a clear vision for an effective, inclusive and transparent Eurogroup which will drive economic growth and jobs. Being from a Programme country such as Ireland — which has experienced one of the EU’s fastest economic transformations and is now a net contributor to the EU budget— also means he deeply understands the challenges and concerns different countries are facing.

Over the past few months, COVID-19 has disrupted our economies as well as people’s lives”.

The EPP backs Paschal Donohoe for President of the Eurogroup. He will strive for a strong and inclusive European recovery.

Nepalese village develops agricultural capacity as long-term strategy | BWNS
Nepalese village develops agricultural capacity as long-term strategy | BWNS
MOTIBASTI, Nepal — With many migrant workers returning home amid the pandemic, the Baha’i Local Spiritual Assembly of Motibasti, Nepal, is looking at what it can do to enhance the community’s capacity to produce its own food.

“There are now many NGOs and agencies that are helping people with their immediate needs,” said Hemant Prakash Budha, member of the Local Spiritual Assembly. “But the Assembly realizes that it can think about long-term solutions. This village has the land and the skills to produce food. But how can we manage if we don’t organize our agricultural efforts as a community?”

The Local Spiritual Assembly has been consulting weekly since the start of the pandemic to help identify and meet the needs of the community. Recently, it has been connecting returning migrant workers with opportunities to farm uncultivated plots belonging to area residents.

4 images
Photograph taken before the current health crisis. People in Kanchanpur district, Nepal, engaged in educational activities of the Baha’i community that build their capacities for service to society.

“Our attitude is not one of dependence, where some people have everything and others are lacking” says Prasad Acharya, a resident of Motibasti. “We see how all can contribute to the community. This is an aspect of the Baha’i principle of the oneness of humanity: that all are one family and all prioritize for the needs of others.”

Drawing on local knowledge and expert advice, the Assembly has assisted families to determine which crops and livestock will provide the best sources of nutrition for the village.

4 images
A member of the Baha’i Local Spiritual Assembly of Motibasti, Nepal, meets with the mayor to deliver a letter describing an irrigation challenge faced by some village members.

The Assembly has been resourceful in helping the community to overcome obstacles. For example, when one part of the village found that it lacked water for irrigation, the Assembly sought assistance from local and regional officials who arranged for a well to be drilled.

Mr. Prakash Budha, reflecting on these experiences, states: “The community is concerned about a potential food crisis, the increasing price of goods, and other issues such as children’s education. When people consult in a spiritual way—lovingly and kindly—they start to become aware of the opportunities before them and how they can move forward. Consultation creates the hope that you can take action and change things.”

A Catholic priest and Red Cross get help from Scientologists in Hungary during Covid19
A Catholic priest and Red Cross get help from Scientologists in Hungary during Covid19

Lending a hand to the community in need in the heart of Central Europe

In the middle of the after-pandemic-crisis when the lockdown and restrictions were released or lessened in most countries of Europe, volunteers have continued to help those in need in Hungary.

The current pandemic brought about a new kind of catastrophe which touched many lives all around the world. Apart from the virus itself and its risk of infection, many suffered  the economical effects of it. Large families, single parents, or elderly, got touched by the restrictions. Some even suddenly lost their job without being prepared.

This spring, Hungarian Scientology volunteer ministers responded super-fast to the scene of disarrangement caused by the spread of the Coronavirus. They quickly assessed what was needed and wanted.

According to Timea Vojtilla, who is currently leading the actions of the volunteer Scientologists in Hungary said to The Social News in EU that “Scientology Volunteer Ministers are well known to jump in and offer their help in all kind of catastrophic situations such as earthquakes, tsunami, forest fires, etc. bringing order and spiritual relief to those who were harmed and to help them to take up their lives again. Our motto is “SOMETHING CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT.

First, they saw that hospital workers got suddenly burdened. They went into communication with the hospital that had been set up for the central handling of Covid-19 in Budapest to find out what their workers would need most. Answering the request, Hungarian Scientology Volunteer Ministers then provided the hospital with 300 kilos of fresh fruits, refreshments, and snacks to distribute to the nurses, doctors, and other hospital workers.

The following week they called the Hungarian Red Cross, which is one of the oldest and best-known charity organizations in Hungary, to learn what help would be most needed. As a result, they collected and donated non-perishable food to two offices of Hungarian Red Cross which then distributed these to families and elderly in need.

As in many other European countries, it became more and more visible, that for those who lost their jobs because of Covid-19, even if only through temporary unemployment, the future became harder and harder to predict. More and more people turned to charity organizations asking for help, especially those who had no or very small savings.

Scientologists gathered more donations and provided an average of 1 to 1.5 tons each time of durable food to different charity organizations, and as the word of mouth was running, they received more requests for help from all parts of Hungary and different parts of society.

Vojtilla said “We are going out every week, sometimes more than once, trying to fulfill the requested help as much as we can, helping with the most basic vital factor of living: food!”

Donations have included not only basic food for cooking such as flower, sugar, salt, pasta, canned food, oil, etc., but also fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, cheese, milk, sausages, and, thinking about children, also cacao, pudding, chocolates and different snacks.

The VMs, as they call themselves, or the yellow t-shirts as they are more and more known contributed to support different other religions knowing that churches were always anchors of spiritual support in troubled times.

As a catholic priest stated, after receiving a ton of food donations from the volunteer ministers, his “little countryside chapel had always been a shelter in its 100’s of years of past existence, even in past pandemics” and that he “was glad to receive donations from Scientologists, and happily distributed the food to all who needed it in my town, regardless of their religion or conviction”. The priest reported that he saw “tears in some people’s eyes when they received this help in these difficult times. Churches joining forces to provide solace in times of need are a basic need”.

“I was glad to receive donations from Scientologists, and happily distributed the food to all who needed it in my town, regardless of their religion or conviction”

A Catholic priest

Timea Vojtilla, spokesperson of the Hungarian Scientologist community and the main organizer of all those actions said: “We love to help others! And probably the most precious part of it is the teamwork when we can join forces with others! We are so much stronger together! Giving a hand to those who are harmed is an honor. I am very happy to see how many people were joining forces in this Covid-19 confusion and did not let others down. The Covid19 has not discriminated against one religion or another, an ethnicity or another, so our VMs have also been helping in Bodvalenke at a gypsy village famous for its wall´s fresco, an orphanage in Transilvania, and a children’s home in Budapest spreading a smile to the children with balloons and chocolate”.

Luk Zelderloo: We need stronger commitment by the EU to ensure resilience of Social Services
Luk Zelderloo: We need stronger commitment by the EU to ensure resilience of Social Services

by Press Release at the EU Brussels Press Club

On 25 June 2020, EASPD and the entire social services sector came together at European level to call the European Union to strengthen recognition, urgency and resilience in social services during the COVID-19 pandemic and the recovery. The Online Summit was also the opportunity for the sector to engage with high level European policy and thought leaders: the Vice President of the European Parliament Dimitrios Papadimoulis, the Vice President of the European Commission Dubravka Šuica, Member of European Parliament Dragoş Pîslaru and University Professor Frank Vandenbroucke.

Yesterday, the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) and 11 partners representing different dimensions to the social services sector at European level organized the Online Summit “Social Services & COVID19: what role for EU?,” viewed by over 2,000 people across different platforms.

Social Services is a sector employing over 11 million professionals, primarily in not-for-profit or public services, who provide care and support to millions of people with disabilities, older persons, children, people at risk of poverty and exclusion and many more.

In his welcoming remarks, the Vice President of the European Parliament, Dimitrios Papadimoulis highlighted the Parliament’s concern that COVID19 has exposed long-standing problems in care provision in the European Union and highlighted the possibility that the Recovery Plan for Europe, currently under negotiation, may make tens of billions of euros available for funding such initiatives.

The Vice President of the European Commission, Dubravka Suica, stated that “social services are under particular strain and the European Commission is committed to help”; listing their ongoing exchanges on how to best support the sector and the actions the European Union is taking in response to COVID19, including the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative.

Professor Frank Vandenbroucke from the University of Amsterdam referred to how well organized social policy is an investment into the resilience of our societies and expressed how COVID is a stress test for social services, but also for the real significance of the European Pillar of Social Rights, agreed in 2017.

Speaking on behalf of a support provider for children with disabilities in Bulgaria, Maya Doneva, CEO of Karin Dom, argued that “as someone who is in charge of a local service provider, I would like the European institutions to show more guarantees and commitment that social services are essential to the EU”.

Dragos Pislaru, Member of the European Parliament expressed his belief that social services are the real heroes in the fight against COVID19 but also called more to be done to improve their resilience. MEP Pislaru referred to the €560 billion proposed by the European Commission in the Resilience and Recovery Facility as an extremely useful instrument to generate the social reforms needed, included to designate social services as essential.

Heather Roy, Secretary General of Eurodiaconia, expressed concerns that we have on the one hand a commitment to support social services by the European Union, yet also reduced or no additional funding in the main policy funds that the EU sees as relevant for social services; referring to the proposed cuts to European Social Fund+ in the next framework.

Presenting the recently agreed joint position by the entire social services sectorEASPD Secretary General, Luk Zelderloo, said  “The message from the sector is crystal clear: we need the European Union to strengthen the recognition, take urgent action and invest in resilience in social services. Alongside national and regional authorities, the EU must demonstrate real commitment and ensure its policies actually reach social service providers across the continent”.

Scientists confirm Italian crucifix is oldest wooden statue in Europe
Scientists confirm Italian crucifix is oldest wooden statue in Europe

By Courtney Mares

Rome Newsroom, Jun 26, 2020 / 08:30 am MT (CNA).- Scientists confirmed this month that a crucifix in the Italian city of Lucca is the oldest wooden statue in Europe.

A radiocarbon dating study conducted by the National Institute for Nuclear Physics in Florence dated the 8-foot wooden crucifix to between 770 to 880 AD. 

The study was commissioned by the Cathedral of Lucca to coincide with the 950-year anniversary of the cathedral’s consecration, which took place in the late 12th century. 

Devotion to the crucifix, known as the “Holy Face of Lucca,” spread throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, as pilgrims stopped in the walled Tuscan city on their way along the Via Francigena pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome.

Dante mentions the Holy Face of Lucca in his “Inferno,” and English King William II took a solemn vow in the name of the Holy Face in 1087.

The scientific study confirmed the local Catholic tradition based on a historical document stating that the crucifix arrived in Lucca in the late 8th century, according to the Archdiocese of Lucca. However, it does not lend evidence to the legend that it was carved from life by Nicodemus, a contemporary of Christ.

“For centuries much has been written of the Holy Face, but always in terms of faith and piety,” 
Annamaria Giusti, scientific consultant for the Lucca Cathedral, said in a statement issued by the  Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics.

“Only in the 20th century did a large critical debate begin around its dating and style. The prevailing opinion was that it was a work to be dated in the second half of the 12th century. Finally the assessment of this antique has closed this age-old controversial problem,” Giusti said. 

“We can now consider [it] the oldest wooden statue in the West that has been passed down to us.”

In the carbon-14 study, three samples of the wood were taken from different parts of the crucifix and one of the linen fabric to be evaluated. Each piece dated to between the last decades of the eighth century and beginning of the ninth century. 

Archbishop Paolo Giulietti of Lucca hailed the study’s results as a timely “message of salvation that comes from Jesus of Nazareth, crucified for love and risen in the power of God.”

“The Holy Face is not only one of the many crucifixes within our Italy and our Europe,” he said. “It is … a ‘living memory’ of the crucified and risen Christ.”

“It is a memorial that has its origins in antiquity, as today’s announcement confirms for us, and that has left indelible traces in the culture, spirituality of Lucca and the entire continent.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Cathedral of Lucca has postponed planned events celebrating its 950 year anniversary to the fall. It is unclear whether the city’s annual September 13 candlelight procession honoring the Holy Face will take place this year as many similar processions in Italy have been cancelled.

The at least 1,140-year-old crucifix can be viewed inside of the Lucca Cathedral of St. Martin.